Bloggers told to come clean over paid-for comments
The Office of Fair Trading will clamp down on bloggers that promote products without making it clear they are being paid for it.
The announcement came after the consumer watchdog took action against Handpicked Media, ruling that the company had breached the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 by publishing comments about products without declaring financial contributions.
The OFT ruled that Handpicked Media, which operates a network of bloggers across several sectors, had been “misleading” and “unfair” by not notifying readers that content was financed by a third party.
The integrity of information published online is crucial
According to the watchdog, the decision sets an important precedent that shows online content must be as open as other formats.
This ruling, said the OFT, would apply to comments about services and products on standard blogs as well as micro blogging platforms such as Twitter.
“The integrity of information published online is crucial so that people can make informed decisions on how to spend their money,” said Heather Clayton, senior director of OFT’s Consumer Group.
“We expect online advertising and marketing campaigns to be transparent so consumers can clearly tell when blogs, posts and micro blogs have been published in return for payment or payment in kind,” she said. “We expect this to include promotions for products and services, as well as editorial content.”
The decision comes days after the OFT launched a campaign aimed at protecting consumers shopping online.